Specialist Spotlight – what is a Gastroenterologist?

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A gastroenterologist is a doctor who investigates, diagnoses, treats and helps to prevent all gastrointestinal and hepatological diseases.

Gastrointestinal = stomach and intestines

Hepatological = liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas

The role of a gastroenterologist is varied and there are continuing advances in the treatment of common conditions. Procedures performed by a gastroenterologist can make a big difference to a patient’s life and some can be complete without surgery. Procedures that are relatively non-invasive include things such as the removal of a gall stone or removing a polyp.

Once trained, gastroenterologists often develop and run endoscopy services which are for diagnostic, therapeutic and screening endoscopy.

All gastroenterology specialists are competent at upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and many will be trained in lower GI endoscopy (flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy). They may also have trained in hepatobiliary endoscopy or small bowel endoscopy. Most will get involved in acute gastroenterology admissions and manage a range of gastrointestinal disease whether the patient is an out-patient or in-patient.

Gastroenterologists treat conditions such as:

  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • gastrointestinal cancer
  • anaemia – a condition where the haemoglobin the blood (a pigment that carries oxygen) is below normal levels
  • inflammatory bowel disease, eg Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the lining of the digestive system), ulcerative colitis (inflammation and ulceration of the lining of the rectum and colon)
  • short bowel syndrome
  • jaundice – a condition where the skin yellows due to an accumulation of bilirubin the blood and tissues
  • management of alcoholic, viral hepatitis (Inflammation of the liver caused by a virus) and autoimmune liver disorders (where the body attacks its own cells)
  • diverticulitis – inflammation of the diverticula (small pouches) in the intestine
  • gastroenteritis
  • hepatitis

Common procedures include:

Diagnostic and therapeutic upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopy ▪ small bowel endoscopy ▪ endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – an endoscopic technique mainly used to diagnose and treat bile duct and pancreatic duct conditions ▪ endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) ▪ intestinal and liver biopsy

The above information has been sourced from https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk


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